Finland-based food group Raisio has appointed Orkla executive Pasi Flinkman as its new CEO.

Flinkman will take the reins from Pekka Kuusniemi, who has been at the helm of the Benecol brand owner since 2017.

Kuusniemi, who announced his departure last month, will leave Raisio on 15 June. Flinkman will step in as CEO with immediate effect.

Flinkman moves from Norway-based Orkla, where he acted as CEO for its Finnish confectionery and snacks unit Orkla Suomi, which manufactures the licorice and chocolate brand Panda and Taffel crisps.

Arto Tiitinen, chair of the board of directors at Raisio said Flinkman was picked for his “strong experience in the food industry” and “international experience”, having worked in the Netherlands, the Baltics and China.

“Flinkman brings significant expertise to Raisio and he has generated growth, developed his team and delivered strong financial results,” Tiitinen said.

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He added: “One of his most important tasks in Raisio will be to generate business growth. I’m confident that Pasi has all the prerequisites to lead Raisio forward. I would also like to thank Pekka Kuusniemi for his dedicated work for Raisio during the years.”

Flinkman said he saw Raisio as “a fascinating combination of roots deep in Finnish fields, great capacity to renew and strong expertise”.

He added: “Raisio has shown courage by making big investments, expanding internationally and innovating with open mind. I look forward to join this great team”.

He takes over the Elovena oatmeal producer at a point when it has seen stagnating sales, resulting in it abandoning 2022-2025 growth targets.

The company’s annual net sales plateaued in 2023, reaching €220m ($235.4m), a drop of 0.6% on 2022, which it attributed to the growing consumer shift to cheaper products.

EBIT in the 12 months increased 6.8% to €19.1m but booked an annual decline of 47.6% in the three months ended December, at €3.1m.

Speaking to Just Food at the time of the release of its financial results, CFO Mika Saarinen said he expected competition from private label to remain a major headwind.

He said: “In each category, and especially in the dire times as we are living now, even in this year, in the whole of Europe, purchasing power will be under strain.

“I don’t know whether it’s able to grow much further in the short term but at least it’s there as a one alternative for customers, that’s for sure.”